If We Don’t Believe one of the “Hyper” Points, does that Mean We are not “Hyper”?

Many of those who critique “hyper-Calvinism” like to lump several ideas together, with the conclusion that if you hold one of these ideas, you most likely hold all the other ideas. And it doesn’t matter anyway, because they will stick the label “hyper” on you even if you believe in only one of the ideas.

I could reverse this by saying that there is a “hyper” package and that if a person fails to believe one of the points, then that person shouldn’t be called “hyper”. But then that raises the question: how many points can you not believe and still be “hyper”?

Of course the greater question is which points go together in your list of what defines “hyper”. There are some like Curt Daniel who say that the simple unwillingness to use the word “offer” (since it’s often associated with the idea that God desires in some way to save the non-elect) makes you a “hyper”. Others would say that the willingness to use the word “election” when you are talking about the gospel makes you “hyper”. And many think that even affirming effective definite atonement makes you “hyper”.

I propose that we don’t use the word “hyper” and simply specify the objections. “Strict Baptists” ( a specific denomination with its own magazine and organization in England) bases the duty of the non-elect on the ability of the non-elect. Since they know that the non-elect have no ability, they deny that the elect have any duty to believe the gospel.

I don’t need to call these people “hyper”. Rather, I will say that they have a false gospel which attempts to discover regeneration and ability before one is warranted to believe the gospel. The problem here is not mainly the power to believe the gospel. The problem is more about WHAT IS THE GOSPEL.

Of course nobody has the duty to believe that Christ died for him or her, or that Christ died for everybody. Christ did not die for everybody. And we can and should say that in the gospel. But without turning the gospel into a law, we can tell everybody the good news that Christ died for the elect alone.

Christ’s death for the elect alone is good news. It’s gospel to say that all for whom Christ died will be saved. It’s not gospel to tell people falsely that Christ died for them. And this is true, whether you are an Arminian saying that based on the idea that Christ died for everybody or whether you are saying it as a Strict Baptist who thinks we can know we are elect and regenerate before we believe the gospel.

So let’s not use the word “hyper”. Let’s talk about what the gospel is. And when Calvinists get the gospel wrong, for example by teaching that the elect are never under the wrath of God (eternal justification), then let’s specify the error instead of merely throwing out the label “hyper” which is nothing but an insult and a label and not an explanation.

Right now I want to quote from Matthew McMahon, a person who lumps different ideas together and makes them into a “hyper” package which he then critiques. I reference McMahon, not because he’s the worst of the guys who do this. (That would be Phil Johnson, a person who has clearly not repented of his Arminianism.) Indeed, McMahon can be very careful and seems to know the history of debates about “offers” etc.

Here’s the quotation: “What the Hyper-Calvinist is really saying is this: Hyper-Calvinism believes that knowledge of the extent of the atonement is a prerequisite for faith in the work of Christ. Again, the sinner must obtain and understand his subjective experience of the work of Christ for him personally. If he does not have this, then he is commanded to believe something that may not be true at all. The Hyper-Calvinist cannot stomach this.”

Now, I could object to the phrase “what he is really saying”. This means, he’s not saying it, but he should say it if he were consistent with other things he says, or at least I think so. I think we need to be careful when we do this, to realize what we are doing and to acknowledge what we are doing. But notice I say: we. We all do this. It’s our way of disagreeing. We point to one thing in common that we don’t believe, and then we say, if you believe one thing, then logically you have to believe this other thing, which we agree we don’t believe.

So let the “really saying” pass. Let the label “hyper” pass. The problem with the McMahon quotation is that he is lumping together two things and confusing them. One thing is knowledge of the extent of the atonement. Another thing is knowledge (because of some experience) that a person has that he is elect. These are TWO DIFFERENT THINGS.

It is one thing in the proclamation of the gospel to say that you need to know the extent to know the nature and intent of the atonement. I think this is true. I know many say that most of the Bible doesn’t talk about the extent, and then they go to Acts or to the Old Testament to argue from the “silence about election” they perceive there to argue for a gospel which must necessarily leave out election.

I won’t do that debate here, except to say a. that the argument often becomes an exercise in simply saying that the Bibe doesn’t talk about election. Period. And b. It becomes an argument that it honors Christ to talk about His Atonement before we ever talk about Election (or whose sins were imputed to Christ).

But again, I don’t want to talk about that now. There are 400 essays on this blog talking about that. In cynical but realist terms, it amounts to saying—let’s keep preaching the same Arminian gospel we claim to have been saved by, since we never repented of that, but only added some things to that. Or as I say it: let’s accomodate Arminians, beause I too am also an Arminian. (See John Piper for an explicit statement to that effect.)

But like I said, two paragraphs back, I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about Mcmahon’s confusion of two ideas. The extent of the atonement and the idea that “the sinner must obtain and understand his subjective experience of the work of Christ for him personally. ”

I don’t believe that second thing. Most of the people I know who believe that the gospel talks about the extent of the atonement don’t believe that second thing. We know you can’t have an experience of knowing you are elect before you believe the gospel. So we don’t believe that second thing.

But Mcmahon puts the two things together. Without argument, he simply assumes that if you talk about extent in the gospel, then you will
be one of those persons trying to find your election in some experience before you think you can believe the gospel.

By the way, while I don’t oppose the language of “duty” and “command”, that language is not necessarily how the Bible talks about the gospel. And more importantly, if you are elect being effectually called, and you understand your problem, and you begin to understand the gospel (election is good news, not bad news!), then “duty” is not really the most apt word–rather, you WANT TO believe the gospel, it’s your delight, it’s your only hope.

I want to wrap up. To review, McMahon is saying two things and confusing them.

One thing: “Hyper-Calvinism believes that knowledge of the extent of the atonement is a prerequisite for faith in the work of Christ.”

Second thing: “The sinner must obtain and understand his subjective
experience of the work of Christ for him personally. If he does not
have this, then he is commanded to believe something that may not be
true at all.”

Of course the second thing involves the “what is the gospel question”. The Strict Baptist is correct to object to telling a person who may not be elect that Christ died for them. But the Strict Baptist is wrong to think that the gospel tells anybody they are elect. The gospel says that the true Christ died for the elect alone. The gospel does not tell you to first found out if your are elect and it certainly will not tell you that you are elect before you believe it.

from Glad Tidings, by Abraham Booth

p182, “If by ‘an awakened sinner’ it is taught that no one is commanded to depend on Christ for pardon and peace unless possessed of a more holy disposition, he must necessarily be more solicitous to find evidence of that prerequisite existing in his own heart, than to understand and believe what the gospel says concerning Christ.”

p223, “The Scriptures will not permit our concluding that any pious affections are possessed by sinners before they receive the truth and believe in Christ. If we really love and revere God, it is because He first loved us, because there is forgiveness with him, because that love for the elect has been revealed in the glad tidings of reconciliation.”

p228–”For sensible sinners to think that they dare not and ought not to believe and embrace Christ, till they be more deeply humbled, and do more thoroughly repent of their sins, and be “more fit’ to receive him; this is but a gilded deceit and a trick of a false heart.”

p235–”The energy of the Holy Spirit applying the word of reconciliation to their hearts, the truth is believed and their enmity subdued, in the same instant. The gospel is the instrument whereby God brings the person forth in a new birth. We are said to be born of the Spirit, nowhere said to be born of the word, but “I have begotten you THROUGH the word.”

p238 “According to fatalism, the word of truth having no influence, is of no use in the work or regeneration, the salutary and important change being produced entirely without it…To imagine that a preparation of the mind, merely to receive the truth, is a change so great as to describe the expressions ‘born again’ or ‘born of the Spirit’ or ‘born of God’ is very unwarrantable…It is too hastily assumed that the mind is prepared to receive the light of spiritual knowledge before the truth have any influence on it.”

p247 “Now the question is: Do the Scriptures lead us to conclude that the mind and the conscience are brought into the new state by an immediate divine energy, without the medium of either the law or the gospel? I think not. It is written: by the law is the knowledge of sin. When the commandment came, sin revived and I died…

p249 “For an ‘awakened sinner’ to be persuaded to be persuaded that regeneration is effected without the instrumentality of divine truth, is to give an injurious direction to his prayers and expectations. He will pray for something under the notion of ‘regeneration’ in which the knowledge of Christ and a regard to His atonement have no concern…Neglecting the testimony of God concerning Jesus, he will be ready to look inside himself for some impulse to produce the important change.”.

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6 Comments on “If We Don’t Believe one of the “Hyper” Points, does that Mean We are not “Hyper”?”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    the ignorant Calvinist thinks you have to say that God wants to save the non-elect in order to preach the gospel to everybody and avoid being “hyper. Mark Jones vs Barbara Duiguid:
    Duguid critiques the idea that sanctification is 100% God and 100% us. She calls this “poor math” and “poor theology” (p. 124). Why? Because God always does his 100% perfectly, which means the reason we are failing is entirely our fault! She may be right about the poor math, but her critique of the theological truth is less than compelling…. Not only Gaffin but also many Reformed luminaries from the past, such as Jonathan Edwards (“But God does all, and we do all”) and Charles Spurgeon (“paradoxes are not strange things in Scripture, but are rather the rule than the exception”), note the “mysterious math” of sanctification.
    … Duguid’s suggestion that God cannot be disappointed in you (p. 48) or your level of sanctification is not only unfaithful to the Bible and the Westminster Confession (11.5), but also Newton.
    There is a sort of “hyper-decretalism” that runs throughout the book (e.g., pp. 125, 205). Duguid affirms that “spiritual growth is not up to us” (p. 48) – a statement that is open to potential misunderstanding.

    For a while now, I’ve thought that a lot of so-called “Calvinists” in the broader North American church are, unwittingly, hyper-Calvinists (doctrinally speaking)
    – See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/01/what-on-earth-is-a-100-calvini.php#sthash.DkYRcgEn.dpuf

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Mcregor Wright also did a hatchet job on “hypers”—

    http://www.aquilapriscillastudycenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/HYPERCALessay.pdf

    Wright—–before the believer distinguishes him- or herself as one of those “chosen before the foundation of the world,” (Eph 1:4, Rom 8:28- 30), the general goodness of God which is “over all his works” (Ps 145:9), is common to believer and unbeliever, graciously given without any distinction of persons. Of course, once we are born again, God’s grace is multiplied towards us in many new and saving ways, and common grace merges naturally into saving or “special grace.” This is the standard Calvinist teaching. But the Hypercalvinist ignores all the references to common grace, and argues instead that if God foreknows who will believe and who not (John 6:64, Jude 1:4, Eph 1:5), then the goodness shown to the nonelect is really only preparing them for judgement, while the same rain is falling on them both at the same time. This sun and rain may seem to be physically common, but spiritually it is grace for the elect and judgement for the non-elect.

    Believers should then imitate this by doing physical good only to believers. Hypercalvinists might visit the sick within their own church community, but they don’t found hospitals. They might teach their own kids to read, but they don’t found schools. They don’t care about anyone but themselves, assuming that only they are “the elect.”

    We notice again that the practical result of the hypercalvinist argument is to restrict and minimize the believers’ responsibility to do good. The Hypers do not understand that not only has God commanded us to do good to all (Gal 6:10), “without respect of persons” (Jas 2:9), but that without the wide reach of common grace, civilization would not be possible. People from overseas are often amazed at the wonderful system of Interstate highways linking every large town in the United States. This Interstate road system was initiated by President Eisenhower as a Defense Bill, to facilitate the movements of the US armed forces in case this country was invaded by the communist nations. Likewise, it was the straight Roman roads, originally constructed for that not only facilitated trade throughout the Empire, but also carried the Gospel rapidly all over the Roman world. The first copy of the letter to the Romans, written in Corinth and carried by the woman deacon Phoebe, traveled over those roads to Rome, a journey of some 600 miles. The Roman road system blessed the believer and the unbeliever, the elect and the non-elect, just like the sun and rain did. So next time you drive up onto I-26 (old I-181) let it remind you of Ike Eisenhower and the doctrine of common grace. Both believer and unbeliever make good use of the Interstate highway system.

    Mark—As far as I can tell, Mcregor Wright neither affirmed or denied the “two wills” idea of an “offer” which wishes that the non-elect would be saved, but Wright does teach that God “loves” the non-elect…

    Wright— Restricting The Free Offer Of The Gospel The way we think of human responsibility also helps decide how we present Christ in our preaching. Most Baptists take it as obvious that when a person hears the Gospel presented faithfully and clearly, they are under a moral obligation to believe it. They think this because they believe that Truth is an attribute of God and to willingly reject Truth is really to reject God. Rejecting Christ involves a self-violation of the conscience. The sinner might not understand the Gospel, or he might not accept it because he has never heard it. Then, because ignorance somewhat limits responsibility, knowledge naturally increases responsibility. So the person who hears the Gospel and continues to reject it, is additionally responsible for this additional sin against God.

    Wright—The Hypercalvinist does not agree with this commonsense approach. He reasons that until the sinner is regenerated he cannot respond in faith to the Gospel, and because he cannot respond, “therefore” he is under no obligation to do so !

    Wright—It’s more than an offer; it’s a sincere promise. Even if I knew for certain that a particular person was not among God’s elect (which I could never know), it would still be true even of that person that “if only you will believe in Christ, you will be saved.” The fact that God foreknows that as a reprobate, he will never believe, does not logically alter the truth that if the condition were met, the result would be salvation. Calvinists therefore offer the Gospel and its attendant promises and blessings indiscriminately to everyone who will listen. That is, they offer Christ freely and openly “to all” in any audience before them.

    Hypercalvinism on the other hand, undermines both the urgency and the responsibility for evangelism. Historically, when a “Hyper” replaces a normal evangelistic Calvinist in the pulpit, the church attendance usually dwindles to a tight circle of loyal supporters claiming to be “the most consistent Calvinists,” yet who feel no sense of urgency about confronting the unbeliever with his responsibility to believe. It does not seem to occur to them that if people are not obligated to believe, their unbelief is not a sin, since they have incurred no guilt.

    Wright also comments on “eternal justification”

    There is necessarily a temporal element in justification, because it is justification by faith. Remarkably, the Hypercalvinist is not satisfied with this estimate of the matter. He argues that because in the purpose of God, the atonement of the cross is certain, it is “as if” it is already completed from eternity. The elect believer is actually justified by the death of Christ in his place, from eternity past. The Elect are therefore already eternally justified from their sins, even if there is no evidence of saving faith.

    Wright— some Hypercalvinists have gone still further again, concluding that if we are eternally justified, our sin amounts to nothing in practice, and “it makes no difference” whether we sin or not. The Elect may continue to sin with impunity.

    mark: The accusations of “hyper” always like to warn of “slippery slopes”. I myself do not agree with “eternal justification” but NOT BECAUSE I THINK OF JUSTIFICATION AS AN EXPERIENCE OF FAITH. Justification is in time because God’s imputation off Christ’s death is in time. But Wright makes no mention of imputation, and speaks only of regeneration and faith as experienced.

    Wright—-The Hypercalvinist leaps irrationally from the mind of God to the subjective event of our experience and from that to the non sequitur that “it doesn’t matter what we do,” in this case, sin or not. If this were true, it would also follow that believers would not need to believe in order to be saved.—–“believers” who have never believed ?

    Wright—It slides from “justified from eternity” to “may sin with impunity” without taking into account the Biblical truth that all born again believers begin to grow in grace or practical sanctification. Not only does Hebrews 12:14 warn us that “without holiness no one will see the Lord,” but Paul even tells us that having been saved by a faith not of ourselves, “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God has prepared beforehand (foreordained) that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:9- 10). For the true believer, good works are actually predestined by God, so naturally, we are happy to step into them by simple obedience day by day. Romans 8:29 says the same thing, that we are predestined to become conformed to the image of Christ. So real sanctification may be slow, but it is always present in the regenerated believer, although some of us may seem to have more of it than others. In fact, the word “saint” used of all believers in the New Testament, just means “one who is being sanctified

    Mark: Interesting but very tendentious reading of sanctified in Hebrews 10—-all the saints are not yet sanctified! I do agree with Wright when he writes—The mere fact that God intended from eternity to slay his Lamb, does not mean that the event was over and finished merely because its future reality was certain in God’s mind. Just because God’s plan is certain does not mean that it has actually happened. A plan is not a reality merely because it is certain of fulfillment. I suppose it’s pretty certain that the sun will rise tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean that tomorrow is already here.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Romans 3:22 –“the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe”.

    Romans 4:13–“the promise did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith….

    Phil 3:9–“and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that righteousness which comes through faith in Christ.”

    Robert Haldane, p194–“there are some who, strongly impressed with the great evil of making faith a work, have plunged into a contrary extreme, as if justification were independent of faith, or as if faith were merely an accidental or unimportant thing in justification. This also is a great error. Faith is as necessary in justification as the sacrifice of Christ itself, but necessary for a different purpose.”

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Andrew Fuller teaching a time lag between “regeneration” and faith. :

    “The author of Glad Tidings to Perishing Sinners (Abraham Booth is decidedly averse from all holy disposition of the heart preceding faith Abraham Booth considers the sinner an enemy to God at the time of his being justified. To be consistent, Booth must consider faith as having no holiness in its nature.

    Abraham Booth:”While a sinner is either stupidly inattentive to his immortal interests, or expecting justification by his own obedience, he will not come to Christ. It should seem, then, that aversion of heart from the gospel plan, or a desire to be justified by one’s own obedience, is no objection to coming to Christ; and that a sinner will come to him, notwithstanding this, provided he be right in speculation, and his conscience sufficiently alarmed. If so, there certainly can be nothing spiritual or holy in the act of coming.”

  5. markmcculley Says:

    strict baptists ask

    was Adam required, duty-bound to believe the gospel, when he was created, before he sinned?

    answer–no. 1 before sin there was no grace and no need for the gospel

    but 2. the thinking is that nobody should be required to do something Adam was not required to do

    which comes down to “ability decides responsibility”

    which makes Strict Baptists agree with Arminians—-the Arrminians saying duty thus ability, the Primitives saying no ability therefore no duty

    on the other side, the “modern question” (is faith a duty?) raised by Andrew Fuller

    and Fuller, like Edwards and Marrow, said yes duty because 1. a there is ability
    making a distinction between “moral ability” vs other inability, the old “you cannot because you will not” soundbite vs the “you will not because you cannot”

    but 2. also Fuller, and Edwards, and Marrow, said that Christ in some sense dead for all sinners, not dead for all to give them all new birth (tricky) but dead for all toe make them a offer, dead for all to make a governmental “propitiation” possible

    so, now which side am I on?

    definitely not on the Fullerite side

    but also don’t agree with the Strict Baptists on going back to what Adam could have done, the ability question

    two summary points

    1. the main thing is what is the gospel, not the duty to believe the gospel—people on both sides of the duty question are getting the gospel wrong, with both saying that “Jesus died for you”, with the Arminians meaning “died for everybody” and the Strict Baptist saying that your “preparation” allows you to then hear a “for you” gospel
    So focus on the gospel, not on the duty

    2. If I have to answer, is the duty of the non-elect to seek salvation by grace, to believe the true gospel, I would say yes But what are the Bible texts to support “duty”—where does the NT exactly say, More punishment if you hear and reject more gospel. I have an open mind on this specific question, but not a lot of texts which come to mind
    we are born already condemned, nobody is born regenerate

    Calvin quotation, p 575 Battles, Institutes 3:2:2

    “Faith properly begins with the promise, rests in it, and ends in it. For in God faith seeks life: a life that is not found in commandments or declarations of penalties, but in the promise of mercy, and only in a freely given promise. For a conditional promise that sends us back to our own works does not promise life unless we discern its presence in ourselves.”

    Faith seeks life. Faith does not come from knowing that we already have life. I am not denying that, once we believe the gospel, we know that we have life. But even when we know that we have life, we still believe the same gospel. That gospel promises life to the dead and ungodly.


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